Penn State’s offenses exploded in 2016 for a myriad of reasons — Joe Moorhead revamped the offensive philosophy, the offensive line was competent, and No. 26 was still No. 26. But perhaps most importantly, the Nittany Lions found themselves a quarterback.
How He Got Here
Trace McSorley was a part of the group of Vanderbilt commitments who followed James Franklin to Happy Valley, and boy oh boy, am I thankful for that everyday. McSorley was tabbed as an athlete who would certainly get a shot at quarterback, but if his arm didn’t prove to be good enough, was athletic enough to switch over to safety in a pinch. It took about 2 seconds for the staff to realize that quarterback would be McSorley’s home, as McSorley beat out fellow freshman QB Michael O’Connor for the backup spot in 2014.
McSorley took over as the starter last season, and through his first four games, his performance ran hot and cold. If there was a two-play series that highlighted McSorley best, it was his final two throws against Pittsburgh — the first, converting on a 4th and long, and then the next play, bombing one into double coverage in the end zone for a game-ending interception. Jubilation and heartache just seconds apart.
But McSorley would get it together. Why? Because he’s a winner, that’s why. Over the final nine games of the season, McSorley threw 20 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions, helping lead the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten Championship, and an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
What To Expect In 2017
While there’s definitely more respect for McSorley heading into 2017, people continue to underestimate just how good this kid truly is. There’s a minority of the Penn State fan base who still thinks Tommy Stevens is the better quarterback — we call these people idiots. And although McSorley is getting the recognition he deserves, much of it is coming with backhanded compliments.
For better or worse, there may be no bigger wild card in all of college football than McSorley. He seemed to be putting it all together as the back half of his sophomore season wound down, taking care of the football and making fearless throws as Penn State swiped a Big Ten championship...and then he tossed three backbreaking picks in a dramatic Rose Bowl loss to USC that showcased both the best and worst of his hyper-aggressive playing style. Thanks to Heisman candidate running back Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions have the College Football Playoff in their sights this year. McSorley is somehow both their best chance of breaking into the top four and the most likely reason their campaign implodes by November. — ES
Reminder: Trace McSorley literally threw two interceptions during a nine-game stretch where he attempted 241 passes. Yet, the media wants you think that McSorley is a careless gunslinger. Fake news, people. Fake. News.
There’s a lot of good quarterbacks around the country — Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Jake Browning, Josh Rosen, and the list goes on. It’s a ridiculously strong year for quarterbacks. But (and I fully admit I might be bias here) give me McSorley over all of them. There’s no one I’d rather have leading my team than No. 9. He was far from a finished product in 2016, and we’ll see that in 2017.